Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Reflection on Faith & Politics -II -- Follow Me

 If any of you wish to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.  Luke:923 

There are many messages (cultural & familial) and experiences in life that shape, mold, and color our brain's processing pathways.  These pathways are a major factor in determining our perception and interpretation of the world.  There are a number of social norms that feed into the inaccuracies we adopt.  Shame is a large one.  It plays havoc with our self-esteem. Shaming is one of the powerful tools used early in childhood to discipline and shape one's conscience and behavior.  Religion has always relied on shaming.  Another common social norm is winning is better than losing. In fact, to compete and win is drummed into us from the earliest team sports we are thrown into in elementary school.  I would posit that we don't even get to an idea of cooperation until several years later.  By that time, the message is set: beating your opponent is strength, and helping others is weak.  The third lesson taught through the subtleties of culture is that more is better.  Social norms strongly reward the "accumulators."  The one who has much is rich, and with wealth comes power and strength.  Each of these cultural influences subtly encourages hoarding, dominating, and even cheating to make up for any felt "weakness."  In turn, we see this powerfully reflected in the politics playing out, in the economy operating, and in our interactions with one another. 

To follow Jesus/"taking up our cross (our truest self)," likely means putting aside the pre-programmed social selfish ambitions. This is not denying the importance of ambition.  Healthy ambition is how human life broadens and expands.  Healthy ambition is the engine that moves the world in positive, life-affirming directions.  It is difficult, however, to find this part of ourselves if we've had parents, teachers, preachers, and coaches hammering the point that you only "make something of yourself" by getting ahead of all the competition. Most of us would accept the point that billionaires are probably at the top of the heap in this kind of societal game. But are they happier?  Is the world a better place?  Is the rest of the world happier as we all give up our own paltry worldly wealth that enables billionaires to hoard more of the money and resources (that do have a finite supply)?

In the First Nations Version (of the New Testament) this passage goes on, "The ones who hold on to their lives will lose them, but those who are willing to lay down their lives for me and my message will live.  How will it help you to get everything you want but lose what it means to be who Creator made you to be?  Is there anything in this world worth trading for that? (Luke 9:24-25)

These words are not meant to be taken in the literal sense. Rather, holding onto a life of shame, feeling like "a loser," or caving into the constrictions and external definitions of who we are by others will cause you to lose yourself and who God created you to be.  The ropes and chains holding us back from being our "true self" will diminish the full beauty of the created order as it was intended.  Love and happiness have a difficult time shining through the smudged-up glass of shame and hoarding. Imagine the difference we would witness in the world if love and helping hands were the rule and if striving (and finding) our intended purpose was the driving force in society.  It would transform politics and everything about how humans interact.  

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